Creating a Positive Professional Image
|Q&A with: |Laura Morgan Roberts |
|Published: |June 20, 2005 |
|Author: |Mallory Stark |
In today’s diverse workplace, your actions and motives are constantly under scrutiny. It is crucial to manage your own professional image before others do it for you.
An interview with Professor Laura Morgan Roberts:-
As HBS professor Laura Morgan Roberts sees it, if you aren't managing your own professional image, others are. "People are constantly observing your behavior and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment, which are rapidly disseminated ...view middle of the document...
Most people want to be described as technically competent, socially skilled, of strong character and integrity, and committed to your work, your team, and your company. Research shows that the most favorably regarded traits are trustworthiness, caring, humility, and capability.
Ask yourself the question: What do I want my key constituents to say about me when I'm not in the room? This description is your desired professional image. Likewise, you might ask yourself the question: What am I concerned that my key constituents might say about me when I'm not in the room? The answer to this question represents your undesired professional image.
You can never know exactly what all of your key constituents think about you, or how they would describe you when you aren't in the room. You can, however, draw inferences about your current professional image based on your interactions with key constituents. People often give you direct feedback about your persona that tells you what they think about your level of competence, character, and commitment. Other times, you may receive indirect signals about your image, through job assignments or referrals and recommendations. Taken together, these direct and indirect signals shape your perceived professional image, your best guess of how you think your key constituents perceive you.
Q: How do stereotypes affect perceived professional image?
A: In the increasingly diverse, twenty-first century workplace, people face a number of complex challenges to creating a positive professional image. They often experience a significant incongruence between their desired professional image and their perceived professional image. In short, they are not perceived in the manner they desire; instead, their undesired professional image may be more closely aligned with how their key constituents actually perceive them.
What lies at the source of this incongruence? Three types of identity threats—predicaments, devaluation, and illegitimacy—compromise key constituents' perceptions of technical competence, social competence, character, and commitment. All professionals will experience a "predicament" or event that reflects poorly on their competence, character, or commitment at some point in time, due to mistakes they have made in the past that have become public knowledge, or competency gaps (e.g., shortcomings or limitations in skill set or style).
Members of negatively stereotyped identity groups may experience an additional form of identity threat known as "devaluation." Identity devaluation occurs when negative attributions about your social identity group(s) undermine key constituents' perceptions of your competence, character, or commitment. For example, African American men are stereotyped as being less intelligent and more likely to engage in criminal behavior than Caucasian men. Asian Americans are stereotyped as technically competent, but lacking in the social skills required to lead effectively. Working...